Author - Bats

Twas The Night Before Christmas, Writer Style
The Perils and Pitfalls of Group Blogging with Writers
Everyday Sexism – Part Two in an Occasional Series
Everyday Sexism – Part 1 in an Occasional Series

Twas The Night Before Christmas, Writer Style

(With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, whom I have shamelessly ripped off).

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the land,
Writers were all cursing, “I do not understand!”
How am I supposed to know when to hit go?


All year I have edited, polished each word,
December is awful for queries I’ve heard.
With so much NaNo nonsense hitting agents desks,
Each new one is looking more and more Kafkaesque.


Then comes Christmas time, and so many will say,
Now’s no time for queries, agents are all away.
Out at bookish parties, full of festive cheer,
They won’t open their inbox, until the New Year.


But writers are eager to show off their book,
They must get an agent by hook or by crook.
So they work themselves up into a frenzied state,
They think tiny errors might be make or break.


Their betas will tell them, now start on something new,
Instead they surf the net, they must know what to do!
Should they submit now, or will it kill all chance?
These agents they lead us on a merry dance!


Everyone tells them now is not the right time,
To query agents, they’ll get lost in the line.
But what if this book is their Jack Reacher version?
That will cause the agent to have a conversion?


The book that will make her dance, and shout out with glee,
This is just perfect as a new novel for me.
It needs no more edits, it’s done and complete,
The deal it will do me will taste so darn sweet.


The writer checks forums, please say what is best,
Until she has queried she will get no rest.
Chill out and relax, there’s no right answer they say,
Still she keeps worrying through the whole of the day.


If I don’t query now, then when shall it be done?
I’ve heard in the summer they’re all out in the sun.
No agent’s at work, work’s no fun, it’s too hot,
The writer’s is really a confusing lot.


So many rules set out to trip them all up,
All they want is to drink from the publishing cup.
Can it really be true that just one errant word,
Is enough to get their agent dreams all deferred?


Desperately trying to tick all the boxes,
Will this be the manuscript that just outfoxes,
The vigilant intern who knows it’s their job,
To protect their boss from the writer’s lynch mob.


So now the writer, festively optimistic,
Redrafts the query showing their feats linguistic
It seems so stupid, idiotic, absurd,
To listen to all the strange stories you’ve heard.


About when to query and when you should not,
It matters little if your writing’s red hot,
If the prose is all tight, and the grammar is clean,
If you’ve checked every word, polished it to a sheen.


However there’s just one final thing to beware,
Even if your book fits their wish list and has flair,
Agents who say they are closed to all queries,
Should not be contacted and you should be leery!

The Perils and Pitfalls of Group Blogging with Writers

I have a confession. The Menagerie is not my first foray into group blogging. There, I said it. I have baggage. What The Menagerie is though, is my first experience of contributing to something where I feel like a fraud!

Other Menageriers (Menagerists?) are Proper Writers. They have agents, and books, and finished drafts. They have published and earnt actual money from it. In short, they are experienced. I am not experienced. I am exactly[1] 33980 words into the first draft of the first ever thing which might end up novel length that I have ever written.

This leads to a whole host of insecurities. For example, in my last post, I wanted to use the phrase “Myself and a colleague…” for stylistic reasons, even though I know technically “My colleague and I…” is more grammatically correct. On the Other Blog I contribute to, I would have written this, reread it, decided I was happy with it being “wrong” and moved on. Because The Menagerie is populated by Proper Writers, and is aimed at people like you, i.e. Proper Readers, what I actually did was this:

Me: [After reading, deleting, and rewriting the same sentence 5 times] So guys, I have a question.

Fellow Menageriers (FMs): Ask us! Ask us!

Me: I have a sentence which I know is wrong but it reads better to me wrong, please advise.

FMs: Yes, it’s wrong, look, you could write it all these ways [long discussion about other ways of writing it ensues].

Me: Thanks! I knew it was wrong, and I don’t like it as much when it’s right, but I bow before your superior wisdom, and I’m going off to change it. Wheee!

FMs: STOP!! We’ve read it in context, and actually, it’s fine. Because you are being wrong for stylistic reasons.

Me: Oh. Well, this is confusing. But it’s wrong. . .

FMs: Leave it alone and do not be a perfectionist.

So I left it alone, and did what I would have done without anyone’s input in the Other Blog. Which was trusted myself. But there’s a little part of me which still feels like a fraud, and like I shouldn’t really be here on this blog which is full of Proper Writers.

The best way I know to overcome this, is to find people you trust to give you advice and support in a positive way. People who want to see you do well. I totally recommend forcing people to help you by muscling in on their online conversations and refusing to leave finding an amazing group of people who will help you with kindness and gentle kicks in the right direction. And, you know, trusting yourself. Paralysis by analysis will never help you improve. Sometimes you just have to put it out there and see what happens.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. At the point of this post going live, this was totally accurate. One day I might add to the word count. Maybe.

Everyday Sexism – Part Two in an Occasional Series

This wasn’t the blog post I had planned for today. But then I read this article in the Sydney Morning Herald and I had to respond.

Essentially what the link says is that it’s ridiculous that women are asked questions about how they balance work and home life and men aren’t (true), and that the answer to this is not to stop asking women this, but to ask men as well. It’s the latter premise which made me go “Woah, WHAT?!”

This idea is so flawed it makes me want to scream. The problem with asking questions like this to women in a male-dominated (or in fact any) workplace is not that men aren’t asked them too. It’s that they are offensive on a much more fundamental level. Firstly, they assume total incompetence on the part of the person being asked. The subtext is always how could someone like you possibly cope with this job and all it entails and deal with anything else. It doesn’t matter if you ask that question to a thousand men and one women, it’s rude, offensive and built on an assumption that they can’t cope.

Secondly, it also assumes that all the people out there who don’t have kids a) don’t have to juggle home life and work, and b) anything they do is far less important than all the kid things other people are doing. Let’s take a look at that for a second. I don’t have kids, but 99% of the things which make a home run like taking out the rubbish, paying the bills, doing the cleaning, making sure there is food in the house, they all still have to happen even though I have no small people demanding attention too. As for part b, well, I have responsibilities in the form of pets, which also need me to care for their every need because they can’t do it themselves. And let’s not forget all those people who are unpaid care workers looking after elderly or sick relatives. Or those of us who do things for neighbours who can’t – for years my husband and I did the shopping for the lady who lived in the flat above us because her mental health problems made that sort of chore difficult for her.

So rather than asking your employees or colleagues such an offensive question as how do you manage it all, why not stop asking it entirely. Instead, start asking the following question:

Is there anything we (the company) can do which would make it easier for you?

And then see how you can implement that. It might be something small, like someone needing to start earlier and finish earlier a couple of days a week because they need to collect their kids from school or get their horse in from the field before it gets dark, or take their neighbour to a support group, or get to training for the sport they play outside of work. It isn’t about why they are asking, it’s about showing them you trust them to do their job and everything else in their life, and you value them enough to want to help them do everything more easily. It’s about recognising that just because someone doesn’t have kids, that doesn’t mean their life is automatically easier, or more manageable, and that regardless of gender, we all have outside stresses which trouble us at work.



Everyday Sexism – Part 1 in an Occasional Series

I work in a very male-dominated industry. I’m often (usually) the only woman on the project team, and usually the youngest by about ten years[1].

90% of the time this is totally fine. But just occasionally I come up against some proper everyday sexism. And now I’m going to share it with all of you. Sometimes it makes me laugh, sometimes it makes me rage, and sometimes it does both. Today’s episode is a “made me rage” version.

Many years ago, my boss at the time sent round an email to the whole team saying he had a spare ticket to a black tie do that evening, and did anyone want to go. Myself and a colleague figured that a) there was no harm in being seen out by management, b) we weren’t doing anything and c) there was free booze, so we said yes.

On arriving in the room it was apparent that women were not welcome. The ‘comedian’ booked for the after dinner speech was more Jim Davidson[2] than Eddie Izzard, and the night was topped off by this spectacular interaction between a client and my colleague:

Client: So is that [gestures at me, even though I am TWO FOOT away], Simon’s[3] girlfriend?

Colleague: Err no, this is

Client: [cuts in] Well why is she here then?

Me: About that free booze. . .

My colleague made a valiant effort to introduce me as a useful member of society, but it was clear none of them wanted to know. So I made the most of the free drink, stayed until I could leave without looking like I’d run for the hills, then got a taxi home. Which I charged to the company, because I figured they owed me for not throwing a drink over the client.

I was about 25 when this happened. These days, I call people out on that kind of stuff, as you’ll see in future episodes.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Ok. Maybe more like five years these days.
  2. If you’re American and don’t know who he is, don’t google him. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  3. Names have been changed. Obviously.

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